Millennial writer Christopher White has a new article at Crux. He writes:
Later this month, on August 24th, the state of Texas is slated to execute Jeffrey Lee Wood- despite the fact that he has never killed anyone. In fact, according to many accounts, Wood was not even aware that the man’s death for which he is being punished was going to occur. And by all accounts, the execution of an individual who did not directly kill another individual is exceedingly rare.
Tragically, this comes almost a year after Pope Francis called for the abolition of the death penalty in his address to the United States Congress last September, where he praised the U.S. bishops for their efforts in this regard.
Continuing to further this cause, 16 bishops from the state of Texas have co-signed a letter to Governor Greg Abbott pleading that he issue a stay in the case. “Mr. Wood has never taken a human life in his own hands,” the bishops write. “He was not even in the building at the time of the crime. It is extremely rare for any person in the history of the modern death penalty to have been executed with as little culpability and participation in the taking of a life as Mr. Wood.”
Now if you’re just hearing about this case for the first time, you may find yourself scratching your head and wondering how such a strange sentence come about in the first place. In short, it’s the result of an old and peculiar Texas law called the “Law of Parties,” where prosecutors are not required to prove that a defendant was a participant in committing the crime in question-or, for that matter, even intended to participate.
Wood was found guilty for waiting outside a convenience store while another man went inside and shot the clerk. Prosecutors charged that Wood and the other man were in cahoots, but Wood has insisted he didn’t know a crime would be committed and in fact insisted that his friend not bring a gun to the store. The other man, Daniel Reneau, was executed in 2002.
If Wood’s case leaves you bewildered and questioning the aggressiveness in which the state of Texas has traditionally pursued capital punishment cases, then you’re in good company. Yet despite the pleas of the Catholic bishops and other protests on Wood’s behalf, the state of Texas seems intent on pursuing even the most extreme of cases.
You can read the full article, which includes his thoughts on the importance of forgiveness here.